Don’t count out Penelope Cruz (‘Parallel Mothers’) in the Best Actress Oscar race

It’s extremely rare for performers to be nominated for an Oscar without contending for at least one of the major precursors. In the last decade only a handful have managed to pull it off: Jackie Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Jonah Hill (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”), Marina Tavira (“Roma”) and LaKeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”). Penelope Cruz looks to join that exclusive company this year for her powerhouse performance in Pedro Almodovar’s critically-lauded melodrama “Parallel Mothers.”

Cruz plays Janis, a late-in-life mother who makes a shocking discovery about this child and must deal with its dire consequences. The bravura of her performance caught the eyes of critics and she won Best Actress from both the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics.

She’s a previous Oscar winner in supporting actress for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and was nominated for her roles in Rob Marshall’s “Nine” and another Almodovar picture, “Volver”. The continued expansion of the academy membership to a more diverse body with many more international members will help her too. She could prove especially popular within the European sector (her performance was Feroz, Goya and José María Forqué Award nominated and winner of the Volpi Cup).

But it’s the Sony Pictures Classics Oscar campaign that could prove especially vital for Cruz. SPC gets better every year with campaigning late-breakers to the academy. While the film did not play strong in the metric of industry precursors, it may have been the last film, Oscar voters watched before voting. That bodes well for “Parallel Mothers”s on Oscar nomination morning. That’s what happened last year with another SPC title, “The Father,” which reaped a half dozen Oscar bids and pulled off two upsets in both Actor (Anthony Hopkins) and Adapted Screenplay.

Cruz sits in 6th among our experts. The film is also on the bubble in original score (5th among our experts), original screenplay (6th among our experts) and director (8th among our experts). Oscar nominations are announced on February 8.

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